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K-State Today

June 21, 2018

Ritterbush headlines Mitchell Farm and Prairie Celebration

By Lauren W. Ritterbush

K-State anthropologist Lauren W. Ritterbush was the featured speaker at the eighth annual Mitchell Farm and Prairie Celebration on Saturday, June 16. 

The historic Mitchell farmstead and the Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie near Wabaunsee are recognized sites of the National Park Service's Network to Freedom Program to commemorate the Underground Railroad as well as the native prairie and its many inhabitants through time. This annual celebration in the Flint Hills recognizes this environment with hikes up Mount Mitchell and native plant identification. Tours of the original 1850s' Mitchell home, courtesy of the present owners, recognize the life of these early Euroamerican settlers and participants in the struggle for freedom along the westernmost route of the Underground Railroad.

Ritterbush expanded the audience's perspective on the culture history of this region through exploration of a timeline of human inhabitation over more than 13,000 years. Relying on archaeological discoveries from Kansas, she highlighted changes in the long-term ways of living 1,000-2,000 years ago with the development of native agriculture and associated transformations in the region. Through this exploration, the audience was able to link the depth of time and the many different ways of living with Mount Mitchell directly and the surrounding Kansas River valley and northern Flint Hills.